A case of mad-cow disease was discovered in Central California, although the cow was not slaughtered for consumption and its milk does not transmit the disease, an official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Tuesday.
The carcass of the dairy cow is being held at a rendering facility in California and will be destroyed, USDA Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford said in a statement.
"I do not think there's cause for alarm," said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, director of the LA County Department of Public Health.
"From everything we know, our food supply chain is safe in this particular case," Fielding said.
The discovery marks the nation's fourth confirmed case of mad-cow disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
"USDA remains confident in the health of the national herd and the safety of beef and dairy products. As the epidemiological investigation progresses, USDA will continue to communicate findings in a timely and transparent manner," Clifford said.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Is it safe to drink milk or eat beef?
A: Yes. The new case is a dairy cow and officials say the disease can't be transmitted in milk.
Q: What is mad cow disease?
A: Mad cow disease is the common term for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE. It's a degenerative nerve disease in cattle that kills brain cells and leaves spongy holes in the brain.
Q: Can humans get mad cow disease?
A: Yes. BSE is linked to a rare but fatal human brain disease, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. People get it by eating beef products contaminated with mad cow disease. Only three cases have been confirmed in the United States, but health officials say those were linked to meat products in the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia.
Q: How was the latest case spotted?
A: The case was discovered through routine testing of a cow that was being sent to a rendering plant in central California. Rendering plants process dead animals and animal waste for use in such things as animal feed and industrial fats and oils. Testing involves taking samples from the brains of dead animals from farms, slaughterhouses and livestock markets.